“We are the campaign with the strongest momentum in the state of New Hampshire,” Pete Buttigieg told a crowd in Nashua last week.
“I’ve got the ‘Big Mo,’” said George H. Bush after winning the Iowa caucuses in 1980.
Following this year’s New Hampshire primary, won by Bernie Sanders, observers of the 2020 Democratic primary will undoubtedly continue to hear claims from the candidates and the news media about “momentum” – the advantage a candidate gains after winning a primary election by a greater amount than predicted by polls taken before the election.
But what does it mean for a candidate to have momentum, and how will momentum affect the media’s coverage of the Democratic candidates in 2020?
When a candidate exceeds expectations in a primary or caucus, the media responds with favorable coverage, which in turn influences polls, donations and volunteers. Interestingly, the momentum of the insurgent has a stronger effect on media coverage than that of the front-runner.